PRADA - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

Italian fashion house

Founded: by Mario Prada (born in Milan, Italy in 1913) and his brother as a luxury leather goods company; taken over by granddaughter Miuccia Bianchi Prada, 1978. Miuccia Prada began designing for company, early 1980s; married Patirizio Bertelli, 1989. Company History: Ready-to-wear added, 1989; launched Miu Miu line, 1992; first London boutique, 1994; opened Miu Miu shop in SoHo, New York, and Prada shops in San Francisco, New York, and Paris, 1996; bought stake in Gucci, 1998; introduced innerwear, cosmetics, home furnishings, athleticwear, 1998-99; resold Gucci to LVMH, and acquired stakes Helmut Lang, Church, and Jil Sander, 1999; teamed with LVMH to buy Fendi, 1999; formed partnership with Azzedine Alaïa, 2000; bought stake in Carshoe, sold Fendi stake to LVMH, 2001; postponed IPO indefinitely. Awards: Miuccia Prada named Footwear News Footwear Designer of the Year, 1996; Special Achievement award, National Italian American Foundation, 2000; Patirizio Bertelli given the Pitti Immagine Uomo award, 2001. Company Address: Via Andrea Maffei 2, 20135 Milan, Italy. Company Website: .




Alford, Lucinda, "Modern de Luxe," in the Independent (London), 19June 1994.

"New York: Miu Miu," in WWD, 31 October 1994.

Spindler, Amy M., "Cool Rises to Intimidating Heights," in the New York Times, 7 April 1995.

Edelson, Sharon, "Prada to Open Miu Miu Unit in New York," in WWD, 29 September 1995.

Forden, Sara Gay, "Prada Using Star Status to Expand its Role onGlobal State," in WWD, 15 February 1996.

Baber, Bonnie, "Prada Power," in Footwear News, 23 December 1996.

Forden, Sara Gay, "Prada on the Prowl: Seeking Growth via Acquisitions, Stores," in WWD, 10 December 1997.

Conti, Samantha, "Prada Buys Five-Percent Gucci Stake," in WWD, 8June 1998.

Luscombe, Belinda, "Catfight on the Catwalk," in Time, 22 June 1998.

Weisman, Katherine, "It's Getting Serious: LVMH Buys Prada's 9.5-Percent Stake in Gucci," in WWD, 13 January 1999.

Conti, Samantha, and Lisa Lockwood, "Prada, Helmut Lang Plan Joint Venture to Build Lang Name," in WWD, 29 March 1999.

Goldstein, Lauren, "Prada Goes Shopping," in Fortune, 27 September 1999.

Menkes, Suzy, "Prada and LVMH Join Forces to Buy Italian Fashion House Fendi," in International Herald Tribune, 13 October 1999.

Conti, Samantha, "The End of the Affair," in WWD, 25 January 2000.

Socha, Miles, et al., "There's Something About Miuccia," in WWD, 10 July 2000.

Zargani, Luisa, "Bertelli Takes Prada to the Public," in WWD, 10November 2000.

Conti, Samantha, "Prada Postpones IPO," in WWD, 20 September 2001.

Prada, spring/summer 2002 ready-to-wear collection. © Reuters NewMedia Inc./CORBIS.
Prada, spring/summer 2002 ready-to-wear collection.
© Reuters NewMedia Inc./CORBIS.

"Prada Sells Stake in Fendi for $265 million (to LVMH)," in New York Times, 26 November 2001.


Fratelli Prada was established as a purveyor of fine quality leather goods and imported items in Milan, Italy, in 1913, by Mario Prada and his brother. For most of this century, affluent clients were offered the requirements of fine living, in an atmosphere immersed in the refined opulence of Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele boutique. The oggetti di lusso or luxury items have included steamer trunks, Hartman luggage made in America, handbags from Austria, silver from London, crystal, tortoise, and shell accessories as well as now obsolete articles made from exquisite materials. Mario Prada traveled throughout Europe in order to familiarize himself with those materials and elements which would build his essential concepts of style and luxury.

Prada, spring/summer 2002 ready-to-wear collection © Reuters NewMedia Inc./CORBIS.
Prada, spring/summer 2002 ready-to-wear collection
© Reuters NewMedia Inc./CORBIS.

Attracted to these same aspects but integrating her own design philosophy, his granddaughter, Miuccia Prada, proceeded to enrich and expand this inherited legacy in 1978. Initially she had dismissed any involvement with the family business as less important than the goals she had set for herself. She received a degree in political science, followed by a period of study in mime at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano in preparation for a career in acting. By her mid-20s she was a committed participant in the political activities of the 1970s in Milan. Though one who had always drawn inspiration from history, "she also refused to reject that part of herself." She was taught to value quality materials and craftsmanship, in a city noted for traditional tailor's ateliers and elegant fabric showrooms.

Miuccia's personal convictions and this serious aspect of her education probably attributed to her belief that women are successful designers because clothing today must express what many women deeply feel. This philosophy has resulted in clothing not preoccupied with sex appeal. What appears to be restrained design quite surprisingly feels exceptional on the body. There has continued to be a nonconforming aspect of beauty in all her collections. This was important to the continuance of Mario Prada's vision of fashion in a full and creative context, capable of making the artisan's qualities come alive in a contemporary spirit.

In the 1980s Miuccia Prada, with her distinctive regard for clothing, accessories, and footwear, began to develop and market an innovative line of fashion accessories eventually followed by a line of ready-to-wear clothes and footwear. In a magazine article, she was quoted as saying that her designs had freedom of movement, freedom from definition, and freedom from constriction. Bohemians, the avant-garde, the beatniks had been constant motifs in her designs. Her philosophy of dress also includes aspects developed and influenced by her own free-spirited personality. A fashion writer once remarked that "her clothes don't necessarily have misfit connotations, nor are particularly for young women, they're like uniforms for the slightly disenfranchised."

She was among the first to produce a practical, lightweight, nylon backpack and other hand-held bags of the same waterproof material. Disregarding season and occasion, the metal stamped Prada logo and brilliant palette combined tassels and leather trim. Black was, without a doubt, the stylish choice. Miuccia has stated she does not focus on inventing but rethinks the company's traditions in a different fashion, "I believe that every form is an archetype of the past."

In their Milanese headquarters, Miuccia Prada and her husband, business partner Patrizio Bertelli, oversee all aspects of the company. Collections are presented there as well as at cultural events. In their Tuscan factory, near Arezzo, prototypes are sampled and all stages of design and technology are controlled. The firm, I Pelletieri D'Italia SpA (IPI), produces and distributes the various lines. It was to this Bertelli-owned factory that Miuccia Prada was originally attracted when she researched improved manufacturing techniques. The firm continues to research all possible methods to make an industrial product look like the unique work of an artisan.

The company Fratelli Prada continues to manufacture leather goods; suede trimmed with passementerie and silk tassels, leather wallets embossed with constructivist motifs, jewelry rolls in suede-lined calf skin, boxy pigskin suitcases, and key rings with leather medallions. Beginning with autumn-winter 1989, ready-to-wear was presented in the calm and stately atmosphere of the Palazzo Manusardi headquarters. Admittedly inspirational to her first collections of black and white dresses and sportswear, were the predominantly stylish and lonely characters in films by Michelangelo Antonioni. "Prada is a reflection of Miuccia's taste, about being a connoisseur rather than a consumer," was an excerpt from a magazine interview. Her first footwear collections combined classicism with elements of the avant-garde in such styles as spectator oxfords and embroidered and bejeweled suede slippers.

Signora Prada begins developing her seasonal repertory with the concept that no single style is appropriate for one occasion. She offers her international clientéle an openminded regard for style. In 1994 there were 45 Prada retail stores worldwide and two Miu Miu (a newer apparel line bearing Miuccia's nickname) stores. In the Prada store in the Galleria, the original mahogany and brass fittings reflect luxury and tradition. On two floors, garments, accessories, footwear, and the addition of menswear, express refinement, grace and gentility as they fuse the past with the modern present.

In commenting on design, she confesses that combining opposites in unconventional ways such as refinement with primitive, and

Prada, fall/winter 2001-02 collection. © AP/Wide World Photos.
Prada, fall/winter 2001-02 collection.
© AP/Wide World Photos.
natural with machine-made helped produce the collections in her namesake store Miu Miu. In 1992, inspired by items in her own wardrobe closet, she created this bohemian, artsy-craftsy collection of patchwork and crocheted garments, saddle bags, and sheepskin jackets, clogs, and boots. She based the new and fresh line on rough finishes, natural colors, and materials reflecting the artisan's craft, stylish in the small boutiques of the 1960s. Her choices of fabrics usually associated with haute couture have been cut into streamlined sportswear such as silk faille trenchcoats, double faced cashmere suits, and nylon parkas trimmed in mink. "In the end," she says, "fabric is fabric. What is really new is the way you treat it and put the pieces together."

In the later 1990s, the Prada empire grew in size and scope due in part to the growing popularity of the Miu Miu range. The first Miu Miu stores, in Paris and Milan, were joined by another in New York's SoHo in 1996, while new Prada stores in opened in Beverly Hills, New York, San Francisco, and Paris. Additionally, Prada licensed a cosmetics line with Estée Lauder, began designing innerwear, and rolled out a home furnishings collection in 1999. Prada further expanded through acquisitions, buying stakes in Church & Co., a UK footwear manufacturer, as well as in designer brands Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, and bitter rival Gucci. Building a relationship with LVMH, Prada then sold its Gucci stake to the French luxury giant and formed an alliance to acquire Fendi in 1999. Further moves included a partnership with Azzedine Alaïa, buying Carshoe, selling its Fendi stake back to LVMH, and postponing an initial public offering originally planned for early 2001.

Prada, a fashion conglomerate in the 2000s, is still an exciting fashion label best known for its elegant accessories and breath-of-fresh-air Miu Miu apparel line.

—Gillion Skellenger;

updated by Nelly Rhodes

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